Sometimes picking up a book with no foreknowledge of the story or the author and with no expectations is the best way to pick up a book. This was one such book — and had it not been for the postal book club I am part of, I’m fairly sure I would not have chosen it myself.
Luke Livingstone is a pillar of the community: a solicitor, a father, and a grandfather who is happily married and about to celebrate his 30th wedding anniversary. On the surface, he has everything — a family who loves him, a job he is good at, and an idyllic home. And yet, when the novel opens, we find a man so unhappy he is on the edge of ending it all.
“A stranger on a train. There was nobody I could possibly have told except a very old woman I’d never seen before and never would again.
‘I won’t be here there’ I said. ‘If all goes to plan I’ll be gone by tomorrow morning. This signals failure on the line has prolonged my life’
Her fingers stopped moving. ‘My I ask why?’
‘Because it’s time, because I have come to the end of a very long road.’”
Luke has been hiding the most fundamental truth about himself and his true identity. If he is to go on living, he has to confess to those who love him most — and who he loves most — who he really is: the woman he really is. What follows is a tidal wave of raw emotion and reaction as his family responds to this revelation.
This is a book about pushing boundaries, about transformation, about gender, and about being true to who you are while being prepared to take risks — I enjoyed it very much. As one of my friends who has read this pointed out, some of the characters are difficult to like (Luke’s son in particular), but for me that did not detract from my enjoyment. I was saddened by particular events and characters reactions but I could also understand why they may have reacted as they did.
The story moved at a fair pace — and I suspect the speed at which the events of the transformation were happening also moved a little more quickly than they would in reality; but, I appreciate that this is fiction and not fact. An advantage of it being fiction is that the writing also flows steadily as events unfold, making it a book which is easy to read and hard to put down. The conclusion is perhaps a little too tidy with a “happy ending-esque” but I felt satisfied by it; and, in my opinion, it was a fitting end to a tumultuous journey.
It’s a subject which I suspect takes some courage to take on for fear of getting it wrong. I think Charity Norman got it very right. I don’t know what the author’s own experience of this particular subject is, but she writes authoritatively and sympathetically about a situation that the majority of us probably have little or no experience of.
This is a novel which may challenge your own beliefs and prejudices. However, if you choose to read it (and I hope you will), I hope that you’ll experience some of the surprise that I did.
About Charity Norman
Charity Norman is an author published by @AllenandUnwin and represented by @GregoryCoAgents. Norman is an ex-barrister from Yorkshire, London, who now live in NZ. » Charity Norman’s Facebook Page
» Reviewer, Traveler, & Lifestyle Blogger: About Angela Vincent
Angela is a 40 something fully paid up bookworm and a regular contributor to The Black Lion Journal. She lives and works in London. By day you will find her working in a busy hospital as a Macmillan Palliative Care Nurse Specialist. Her aim is to do those things which make her heart sing and spend time with those who make her smile. A love of books, reading, and writing has always been a big part of her life. ‘Changing pages’ began as a natural extension of that in 2014, and is a continuation of many years of dedicated scribbling and journal keeping. When she is not reading books, she can often be found writing about them or thinking about what she might read next.